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The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs almost didn’t

Published Nov 9th, 2017 7:01PM EST
asteroid dinosaurs

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If you think the emergence of man was an inevitability, think again. The massive asteroid that struck Earth and triggered the mass extinction of the dinosaurs is the reason we’re all here today, and if a new report on the impact is correct, it managing to actually wipe so many species from the planet was incredibly unlikely.

The study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, focused on the location and severity of the asteroid strike to gauge how the scenario would have played out differently if the rock had landed anywhere other than where it did. The results point to a roughly 1-in-10 chance that the asteroid would usher in a large-scale extinction, and that means that there was something like a 90% chance that dinosaurs would have survived the strike if things had played out only slightly differently.

The research, which was conducted by two Japanese scientists, points to a long-held belief that material ejected into the atmosphere during the strike blocked out the Sun, causing temperatures to dive and killing off countless species. However, the researchers suggest that the only reason the strike was so incredibly devastating was because it struck a massive amount of volatile material hidden underneath its impact site near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

The scientists allege that there’s only about a 13% chance that the asteroid would have struck a location that could have produced the amount of sun-blocking soot that would have resulted in a mass extinction. If the rock had smashed into any other spot on the planet, the researchers believe that dinosaurs “could be alive today.”

Others aren’t so sure, and there’s plenty of debate still ongoing as to what aspect of the asteroid’s strike was actually the most devastating. However, it’s worth considering the likelihood that mammals really only got the chance to become dominant thanks to the dumb luck of an asteroid striking the right place at the right time.